Straight-talking Discussions of Practice Health Will Expand at WVC 2014
Although every veterinary practice is unique, all practices face more or less the same challenges. At this year’s Western Veterinary Conference a Town Hall Meeting event, “2013 Healthy Practices in Tough Times,” tackled three areas of significant concern to session participants: (1) Practice Leadership, (2) Attracting New Clients, and (3) Communicating Value to Pet Owners.
During the Town Hall session small group discussions were facilitated by expert veterinary practice management consultants Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA; Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM; Charlotte Lacroix, DVM, JD; David McCormick, MS; and Andy Roark, DVM, MS. According to Dr. Donnelly, “Due to the interactive format, attendees were able to share new ideas for improved marketing and leadership from their colleagues and the facilitators.” The objective was to distinguish specific practice problems and collectively generate steps by which to overcome them and move forward.
Consultant Karyn Gavzer says, “I think the biggest surprise was learning that WVC Town Hall participants ranked leadership – not financial, not marketing – as their #1 issue! We had a great time exploring it and sharing practical, real-world ideas to take home and use. I can’t wait to see what the ‘hottest’ issue will be at the 2014 WVC Practice Management Forum and what ideas will surface in our discussions.”
Of all issues in the three major categories addressed during the Town Hall session, Practice Leadership emerged as the greatest concern. Group discussions identified these eight aspects of poor leadership:
Attendees also compiled a list of the eight attributes that they believe are essential in good leaders:
From the two contrasting lists of qualities, participants developed these action steps for improving leadership in practice:
Attracting New Clients
The second area that 2013 Town Hall participants considered most important is Attracting New Clients. Challenges they associated with the issue were the recent recession, increased competition, and fragmentation of veterinary services. Through discussions and brainstorming the group worked out three avenues to help expand a practice’s client base.
Engage the community.
It is a given that the more your community hears about your practice, the more likely you will be top of mind when residents need a veterinarian. Action items with visibility as the goal include:
Change marketing techniques.
It’s a fact: the days of Yellow Pages marketing are over. Today’s potential clients are using websites, Facebook, and other social media. Accordingly, smart action steps include:
Focus on the client experience.
What each client encounters relative to your practice needs to outweigh any associated costs. Give your clients the optimal experience. Do little things to make the client happy! Happy clients and a great experience lead to client referrals.
Communicating Value to Pet Owners
In recent years communicating value to pet owners has become increasingly difficult. Town Hall participants centered this third discussion segment on the best course of action by which to communicate the worth of veterinary products/prescriptions and services.
Conveying the merits of products.
Groups focused on how to compete with Internet pharmacies and low-cost providers. Several attendees cited recent problems when errors were made by human pharmacists due to their lack of knowledge of medications and dosages for pets. Discussion led to the following tips and solutions:
Communicating the importance of services.
Participants agreed that hospital teams need to focus on improving communication with clients as well as client education. The entire team should be prepared to use understandable language in clarifying why pets need particular treatments. Suggested steps are:
2013 Town Hall Sum-up and a Glance at 2014
The candid “world-cafe” format of the Town Hall event presented a vibrant opportunity for veterinarians to get together, problem-solve, and support each other in dealing with the demanding concerns that each of them handles routinely. Tried-and-true ideas, new thinking, practical tips, and story sharing marked the day. Participants exchanged questions, solutions, and experiences and made lasting contacts with colleagues from across the nation. Practitioners and practice managers now have an ongoing comfortable and informative channel that deals with real-world situations, encourages positive changes, and opens the door to discovering which of those changes are most effective.
Dr. Andy Roark summarizes, “These are tough times in veterinary medicine. When we imagined the Town Hall event, developing a forum where motivated practitioners could discuss issues in an organized manner was vital. Our greatest hope was to utilize this discussion to produce actionable steps that practices could implement to address the challenges they are facing today. I think we were successful in this regard. People who have not seen this approach to management should jump at the chance to attend the 2014 Practice Management Forum” when an in depth look is undertaken into the issues faced by associate veterinarians.
Be a part of the next round of realistic, energetic discussions. There is no additional charge to attend “2014 Solutions Forum: Current Challenges Facing Today’s Associate Veterinarians,” but attendance is limited and preregistration is required. Available at wvc.org beginning September 1 to attendees who have registered for the 86th Annual Western Veterinary Conference.